For the older girls…head over to Alisa Burke to see how she upcycled a headband and fabric scraps into a fun Braided Headband.
Are you ready to get your summer staycation rolling?
I’m excited to tell you that I have a whole season worth of guest posts, tutorials and links to the best frugal fun ideas around! Kicking it off, you can head over to Make It Do to find an easy kite tutorial using stuff you probably already have around the house. This one requires little effort and hardly any mess, but it’s something the kiddos will remember!
Summer vacation is just around the corner! For me, that means five energetic kids running around my presently quiet house looking for mischief and adventure.
Since a big vacation is not in our budget, I have been planning as many free and cheap activities as possible for them. I picked up some construction paper and posterboard from the Dollar Tree last week and made a big Summer Fun Wall, complete with calendar, daily themes, a chore chart and a list of summer goals for each child. My hope was that seeing all the fun activities would get them excited about the idea of a staycation.
And it worked like a charm.
I’ve added a few things to their typical chore list since they have more time at home. There were a few groans from the peanut gallery over this one until I showed them my system. I have an index card for each of the kids which will hang on the wall. Whenever they do their chores without being told and without having to redo anything, they get a star. Once they’ve accumulate five stars, they get to choose something from the goody basket.
Amazing what a mom can accomplish when she has a bag or three of plastic army guys.
The next board contains the July calendar and our Summer Goal List. Each child has selected 1-3 personal goals to work on, and they are rewarded with a star for every hour they spend. My middle son wants to try out as pitcher next little league season, so we will be working on that. My oldest wants to learn Java programming. I’m not exactly sure what that is, but I used my free Amazon gift cards to get him an instructional book.
So good luck with that, son. Java it up.
My kids were particularly excited about our theme days. Here’s what I came up with:
- Mondays – Book Club. I’ll be reading aloud The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia and Number the Stars – one each month. Aside from this, each child has their own reading list for the summer, but this is a special day just for reading together.
- Tuesdays – Water Fun. I have 12 different water-themed activities – one for each week. Includes water balloons, Slip & Slide, a trip to the ocean and a sprinkler obstacle course. Check your local dollar store for affordable water toys.
- Wednesdays – In the Kitchen. Easy and fun recipes. I’ll be blogging about some of these, but you can find ideas for homemade ice cream, popsicles and slushy drinks on the web. My favorite site is Food.com
- Thursdays – Field Trip. I have been accumulating my Groupons and Eversave vouchers so we can do one field trip activity per week like going to the zoo, museum, ice cream parlor and free movies. When we don’t have a discount voucher we’ll go on a picnic or walk around downtown.
- Fridays – Camp Out. I managed to find a small pop-up tent at the local thrift store and the kids will be using it for backyard (or living room) camp outs. As simple as it sounds, the kids get such a kick out of sleeping in a tent!
I used the monthly calendars to write in free local events at the library and nature center as well as festivals, fairs and downtown activities in our area. Wouldn’t you know, I made mine before I found these adorable free summer calendar printables by Anything but Perfect.
More Summer Fun ideas:
I am linking up to THESE fun parties.
After mentioning that I was doing an at-home preschool program, several of you asked to hear more about it. So I wanted to share what I am doing in a week-long series in hopes that it will inspire other homeschool rookies like myself to give it a try. Even though my son is autistic and a bit behind developmentally, I think that this program (or at least the way I went about creating it) can be applied to any preschool child.
In our particular situation, the motivation for this program is a set of concrete educational goals. I want him to improve his letter recognition, body awareness, hand-eye coordination and so on. Since we have very specific and measurable goals, my approach toward his program is a structured and scheduled learning environment. If you think your child would benefit more from an unstructured, play-based environment, you can take what you like from my suggestions and leave the rest. I honestly don’t think there is a specific right or wrong way of doing this. So long as it is developed around the needs and strengths of your child!
List Your Goals
Initially, I had only a sketchy idea of the educational goals that a typical preschool program might have. So I began with Google.
Good ol’ Google. What did we ever do without you?
I found a wealth of information regarding preschool curriculum, lesson plans and goals just by searching. So that was my starting point. I listed the goals I thought were appropriate for my child based on his development and a timeframe of 12 weeks. Your goals will likely look different, but here are mine:
- Cut with scissors independently
- Write name independently
- Recognize colors
- Recognize numbers 1-10
- Recognize shapes circle, triangle, square, heart, star, rectangle, oval
- Recognize letters and match uppercase to lowercase
- Daily exposure to gross motor activities to improve body awareness. Including: ride a trike, kick a ball, catch a ball, water the garden, jump, hop on one foot, throw a ball into a container, hit a ball off tee.
Most of these are things he is already working on, so it was reasonable to think he would be able to accomplish them by summers end. Even if it turns out that I am overly optimistic, I would always rather aim high and miss than aim too low.
So this is our list, and we’re stickin’ to it.
Keep Your Eyes Peeled
Once you have your goals in place, you can begin thinking about how to teach each of these things. Since this is my first home program, I began by pouring through the resources at Lakeshore Learning and trying to think of ways I could make some of this stuff myself.
Because, hello. Major sticker shock on the prices over there.
Case in point. THIS is a great idea. But it’s little more than 10 color flash cards and a handful of plastic dollar store fish. For $19.95 plus shipping. Ahem!
Instead, I printed off photos of common animals and made my own flash cards – Google to the rescue again!
See the nifty cow flash card in the lower left corner? Yep. I made that. Hard to believe, isn’t it?
I have also been searching the thrift store and dollar store for toys, puzzles, books and learning activities for these particular animals so I can use them in the program.
I have accumulated two drawers full of animal activities for a whopping $7!
In your face, overpriced educational store.
Come back tomorrow to hear about my learning themes. If you haven’t guessed, one of them is animals! For now, if you’d like to get started on a summer preschool program like mine you can:
- Decide on learning goals for your child
- Visit Lakeshore Learning and other similar sites for ideas
In my last Summer Staycation post, I showed you how I was stocking up on cheap crafts, gardening items and stuff for my summer-at-home preschool program. Today I’d like to share a round-up of ideas that will help you fill your calendar with frugal staycation activities. You can print monthly calendars for June, July and August from Organized Home to stay organized.
- Your local library reading club. Information should now be available regarding dates and activities at your nearest branch.
- Contact your local Parks & Recreation department, Community Center, Visitors Center or the local newspaper website for a list of free activities. Don’t forget to check with any nature centers, sports centers, lakes or community parks.
- Check out the programs available from local churches. Even if you’re not a regular attender, you can still take advantage of craft camps, sports camps or Vacation Bible Schools they offer. Usually these are free or very affordable.
- Free factory tours in your area.
- Free crafts for kids every Saturday at Lakeshore Learning.
- Kids workshops available some Saturdays at Lowes or Home Depot.
- Barnes & Noble – read 8 books get one free. Some locations also have a weekly read along.
- Borders – read 10 books get one free.
- Half Price Books – read 600 minutes and get a $5 store voucher good on any purchase.
- HEB – forms are available in-store for the 2011 Summer Reading Club. Read 10 books and send in your reading journal for a free surprise by mail!
- TD Banks – read 10 books get $10!
- Chuck E Cheese – read 10 books, get 10 tokens.
- Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse – 10 movies for $5
- AMC Theatres – no longer offer summer movie camp, but you can get discounted tickets on select dates when you see a show before noon.
- Regal Theatres Summer Movie Express $1 movies Tuesdays & Wednesdays at 10am.
- Find a U-Pick farm in your area.
- Bowl for free at Bowling Alleys across the country.
- AMF Bowling Club gives you $20 off your next visit.
- Fun Stuff for Kids from Kids.gov.
Did I miss anything?
Okay, folks. The countdown is on for summer vacation.
If you’re like us, a big vacation just isn’t in the budget. But I still want my kids to have a fun, memorable summer! That’s why I’ve decided to start a Summer Staycation series here on Moms by Heart! In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing my favorite resources, ideas and organizational tips to help you on your way.
For now, you can find some great bargains on art supplies and little projects by shopping the dollar sections at Michael’s. Use THIS printable coupon to get 30% off your entire regular priced purchase this Saturday 4/23 making everything in the dollar section only $.70! UPDATE: coupon has expired, but check your local ad or sign up for email alerts from Michaels.com to get the latest coupons.
Stop by your local dollar store! Many locations have seed starting kits, seed packets and potting soil for just a buck!
I found some great bargains at the Dollar Store and TJ Maxx that will work for a summer preschool program I am doing for my little guy…more on that later. Scribble pads, construction paper, flash cards – all for a buck.
I have been confiscating all of hubby’s spare change and saving it to fill up my summer prize basket with items from (you guessed it) the Dollar Store. The kids will be able to earn a treasure each time they complete something from their summer goal list.
Also, make sure you are signed up for email alerts from daily deal sites. I have scored half price zoo memberships, bargain theater tickets, cheap family dinners and even a hot deal on a pontoon rental.
My favorite daily deal sites: